29 December 2009


I like guitars. I really do. In fact, I have a rather pleasing collection of guitars, which I won't bother you with, but which consists of a Washburn Falcon guitar (the same model as played by Barry Gray of the Legendary Pink Dots, but that just might be a coincidence), a Gretsch semi-acoustic guitar, a Washburn silver-stringed Jumbo acoustic and a Fender Butterscotch Precision bass. Recently I bought a new guitar to add to the collection. It's a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, handmade in the late 60s/very early 70s in Germany by guitar-builder Armin Gropp (I kid you not). The Gropp Brothers are still in business and can be located at http://www.gropp-gitarren.de/ The one I bought has a lovely deep resonating sound and plays like a dream (the guitar, not one of the brothers). I bought the guitar off Enrico Beretta who, unlike his name suggests, is a Dutch singer-songwriter and a very friendly guy. Check him out at http://www.enricoberretta.nl/. I haven't got a picture of the new guitar yet, so I figured you might like the image now added, which is a very nice picture of Wang Yameng and Su Meng (perhaps slightly better known at Duo Meme & Yaya), who, like me, play Gropp guitars. I wish I could refer to a webpage for them, but unfortunately I cannot find it. Oh well, they certainly look great. Almost as great as that other duo The Peanuts. Now, they really rocked. You can see them at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Peanuts The new guitar has already been used on a recording. I have recorded a track for Frank Antonie's upcoming poetry project on which you can hear me playing the guitar. To be entirely honest, you can hear me stroking the body of the new guitar on this particular track, which gives a really weird wooshing sound. As said, a great guitar!

Vive la Dutch!

Surprieze – Zeer Oude Klanken en Heel Nieuwe Geluiden
Private release LP 1973

This curiously-titled record (Very Old Tones and Very New Sounds) is high on many want lists of psych collectors. For many years few collectors had actually heard the music, since only very few copies survived the mist of times and, as you will read, the hands of its creator. In the early 70's guitarist/harmonica player Eddie van der Meer left his blues-based band Slack Gang to create the music, which he so clearly heard in his head. Recorded live over a two year period in various bedrooms and youth clubs without any overdubs, the album was privately released in 1973. As soon as the needle is put into the grooves you know you're in for something truly special. Van der Meer plays an utterly unique combination of rambling spontaneous Delta-blues with avant-garde influences using a 3-string guitar. One moment this guitar wails à la Hendrix (albeit one with a Dutch accent) the next moment it almost whispers in a classical, violin and guitar duet. Van der Meer's often improvised vocals are high pitched and meandering and at times it's hard to make out the words. There's experimentation with echo, delays and raga-type droning. In short, and in lack of a better term, this could be qualified as "outsider music" and, as such, is highly valued today. In 1973 however, Van der Meer's proud album fell on stony ground. Even though later reviews were not that bad, the first review to appear (in Aloha, the leading Dutch music magazines no less) was absolutely devastating. Referring to the album as "round and black with a hole in the middle, which is the only positive thing about it" and "an insult to the listener", the review made Van der Meer lose all enthusiasm and confidence about his record. As a result he cycled to the Scheveningen beach (a distance of no less than 70 miles!) with his saddle bags stuffed with copies of the album and threw them into the North sea! Copies of the album have survived in private collections and after many years, when interest in private pressings grew, the album resurfaced. Some 10 years ago Dutch reissue label Grey Past re-released the album, which, this time, gained raving reviews from all over the world. These days Van der Meer is still around and even though he is a very withdrawn and private person, he must feel some vindication about the prices (and praise) his album now fetches. Created by a free spirited mind, this album is an emotional rollercoaster, strange but, more importantly, utterly beautiful. Originals are almost impossible to find (even in The Netherlands), so you can imagine my joy when I found one at the recent record fair in Utrecht. In very small wording, in the corner of the back sleeve, it is signed by Eddie van der Meer himself to his "kind neighbors". A touching gesture on a beautiful record.